The robot fish’s job is to scare off invasive species.
Photo: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels
Mosquito fish is one of the 100 worst invasive species in the world, but that threat could change thanks to a robot designed that is intended to scare it awayBecause the fear they experience alters their behavior, physiology and fertility, according to a study published this Thursday in the journal iScience.
To reach this conclusion, some Australian researchers have designed a robot fish, which looks and looks nothing like one of its predatory species, the sea bass (Micropterus salmoides).
Mosquito fish feed on the eggs of other fish and amphibians, as well as biting the tails of freshwater fish and tadpoles. ANDThe robot, with the help of computer vision, attacks when it detects that the mosquito fish approaches the tadpoles of the Australian frog Litoria moorei.
Fear affected the reproduction of the invaders
Faced with the attack, the fish displayed fearful behaviors and experienced weight loss, body shape changes and reduced fertility, all of which impaired their survival and reproduction.
For the tadpoles, however, the presence of the robot was a change for the better, since they were not scared of the device and, having no predators nearby, they were more willing to venture into unknown areas.
The threat of the mosquito fish
Lead study author Giovanni Polverino of the University of Western Australia noted that mosquito fish is a pest that poses “a serious threat to many aquatic animals”.
In the presence of robotic fish, the mosquitoes tended to stay closer to each other and to spend more time in a known area of water.
The animals that encountered the robot, swam more frantically, with frequent and abrupt turns, compared to those mosquito fish that had not been frightened by it.
The invaders were traumatized
Returned to their aquariums of origin, the effect of fear was long-lasting, as for weeks the fish showed signs of anxiety, were less active, ate more and remained immobile for longer.
After five weeks of brief encounters between the mosquito fish and the robot, the team found that the fish spent more energy escaping than reproducing.
Males had fewer sperm counts and females produced lighter eggs, changes that “probably compromise the survival of the species as a whole,” the study indicates.
So he opted for the team’s approach of using robotics to reveal the pain points of an “incredibly successful” pest, which can open the door to improve biocontrol practices and combat invasive species.
With information from DW.
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